Do Unicorns Like Uber Point to a Tech Bubble?


It’s tough to say whether the private market for tech companies is in bubble territory, but lofty late-stage funding in Silicon Valley could benefit from public market discipline, the managing director at LererHippeau Ventures said Thursday.

When it comes to late-stage funding rounds, it’s hard to know whether a company like transportation network Uber is worth $25 billion or $45 billion, Ben Lerer argued, when investors don’t have the public markets to regulate the pricing.

Redpoint Ventures partner Geoff Yang was more definitive—saying he believes the late-stage private market had entered bubble territory.

“There’s a lot of money on the West Coast in particular going into these late stage businesses,” Lerer told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in an interview. “Uber is an amazing company. These businesses that are raising in the billions of dollars of valuations are amazing businesses, but how amazing, I don’t know?”

LererHippeau focuses on early-stage funding in the New York City area. The firm’s investments include media website Buzzfeed, 3-D printer manufacturer Makerbot Industries, and eyeglasses Internet retailer Warby Parker.

“When the market’s hot, the pre-money valuation on the deals we do might be $6 million versus $5 million, so there’s smaller movement in the market that we’re investing in,” Lerer said.

Yang told CNBC private market multiples for late-stage tech companies were roughly two times those in public markets.

The disparity is more pronounced in the enterprise software space than in the market for consumer-oriented products, he added.

“That is very atypical. There usually is a positive arbitrage between the private market and the public market,” the Redpoint Ventures partner said. “Right now I think the private market is more expensive than the public market.”

Redpoint is a $3 billion fund for early-stage growth companies and focuses on Internet and broadband start-ups.

While most of the companies will see their valuations increase after going public, said Yang, there is no guarantee current valuations will hold post-IPO.

“Trees don’t grow to the sky, right? I think there’s got to be some revaluing,” he said.


Reprinted with Permission.

Image credit: CC by kismihok

About the author: Tom DiChristopher

Tom DiChristopher is a news associate for CNBC.

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